Sunday, January 25, 2009

Herbie Hancock in Manila?

Teaser ads over cable TV have already announced the staging of the 4th Philippine International Jazz and Arts Festival next month. And while viewers have been advised to stay tuned for more details, the festival committee already revealed months ago a wishlist of the artists they are aiming to wow Filipino audiences with.

Headlining their dream team are iconic keyboardist Herbie Hancock, pre-eminent jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves, platinum-selling brassman Dave Koz, renowned Brazilian singer-songwriter Ivan Lins, award-winning vocal ensemble The New York Voices, and 6-octave vocal jazz legend, Flora Purim.

Will organizers of this year's festival be successful in their pursuit? Last year's roster included such electrifying artists as Raul Midon, Kurt Elling, Lee Ritenour, and Incognito. I guess we should know about this year in just a few days.

The Philippine International Jazz and Arts Festival is slated from February 22 to March 4, with campus tours and workshops to be mounted alongside the highly-anticipated concerts.

Stay tuned for more details...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Friday the 13th: Chick Corea in Manila this February

Today is my lucky day. 

The jazz world has known for some time now that Chick Corea and his newly-formed Five Peace Band are kicking off 2009 with performances in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea. But I just discovered this morning that even before heading down under, the jazz greats will be heading here.

Many know Corea through his most famous work, Spain. I myself first encountered the man when I was 9 via his take on Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, which he quotes as a prelude to his popular jazz track (later on, Al Jarreau recorded a version with lyrics).  Others know him for taking over Herbie Hancock's keyboards in Miles Davis's band when the former left, or for setting up his own group, Return to Forever, with bassist Stanley Clarke and vocal siren Flora Purim, among others.

But I remember him most for his mesmerizing album, The Mad Hatter (thanks George--for introducing me to the project), his avant garde brand of jazz, and his sublime improvisations on the Fender Rhodes...kaleidoscopic! Does anyone wonder why he has been Grammy-nominated 45 times and has won 14 statuettes?

Recently, Corea has re-teamed up with legendary guitarist John McLaughlin (they were together over 40 years ago in Miles Davis's band). With Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride and Brian Blade, Five Peace Band is poised to elevate new audiences and break down the borders of musical genres and generations.

And they will be in Manila for a one-night show on February 13, Friday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

CDs I Look Forward to This January

So early in the year and so much music to look forward to. A quick look at some soon-to-be-released albums has made my mouth water. Maybe yours would too if we shared the same taste in music. Find out for yourself in this list of 5 CDs from 5 different women, all albums due in record bars (at least in the U.S.) this month.

Finally, four years after her debut album (when she was 14), Olstead releases SKYLARK with producer David Foster. The project promises to showcase once again, the young artist's mature interpretation and velvety vocals in this 13-track CD of jazz standards, modern classics, and 4 originals which she co-wrote. Oh, and has anyone caught her twist on Chaka Khan's THROUGH THE FIRE in a live concert with Foster? Too bad though that it's not in the CD.

Quite obviously, the CD includes a recording of RAINBOW CONNECTION. But more so, it contains tracks written by Paul Simon, Fiona Apple, and my favorites Ivan Lins and Corinne Bailey Rae.  Good pal and fellow jazz-enthusiast Jimmy Buencamino introduced me to this Grammy-nominated chanteuse, and I've been following her ever since. Expect a serving of sultry jazz, passionate yet mellow, quiet yet stirring.

Just as the 50th anniversary of Bossa Nova ended in 2008 (the genre came to life in 1958), Elias releases her BOSSA NOVA STORIES showcasing not only her dexterity on the keys (she was a child prodigy in the 60s) but so too her soothing vocal style. Born in Sao Paolo, Elias has earned a huge global following with her brand of music--a fusion of traditional Brazilian harmonies and rhythms, with modern jazz technique. The album combines Brazilian classics and American standards set to the true Bossa beat.

Let's go pop this time. Her music has been described as a mix of the Beatles, Aimee Mann, Alanis Morissette, and Amy Winehouse, while she credits Fiona Apple, Patty Griffin and Greg Laswell as among her major influences. Erin McCarley is a new kid on the block releasing her debut album which she calls a document of her search for authenticity in herself and in others. Intrigued? Watch out for this artist and listen to samples here:

Ok, here's one that's totally from left field. For those who experiment occasionally with world music, you might want to sample Traore's latest project. Born in Mali and raised in Europe, Traore was exposed to a spectrum of music including classical, jazz and pop, yet she has never abandoned her African roots. As such, her songs employ traditional instruments like the balafon, n'goni and kora; however, her singing is unlike the wailing style common amongst her tribe. Her voice is smooth and gentle resulting in an overall impact that reflects both tradition and innovation.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Love Song from Sara Bareilles

With the Grammy Awards coming up early next month, I felt it wise to brush up on some of the nominees whose work stirred up the industry in 2008. Late last year I took an interest in Adele Adkins, British soul-jazz-pop artist nominated for record of the year, song of the year, best new artist, and best female pop vocal performance. This time, I take a look at Sara Bareilles, who too is nominated for best female pop vocal performance, and whose LOVE SONG is contending for song of the year.  Incidentally, LOVE SONG was named by Billboard as the #1 hot adult contemporary song of 2008, beating even Alicia Keys's NO ONE and Coldplay's VIVA LA VIDA.

Upon graduating from UCLA in 2002, Bareilles began touring the circuit in local bars and clubs, slowly developing a following for her confident vocals and fearless keyboards. This eventually led to the indie recording of her first studio album, CAREFUL CONFESSIONS, and to bigger gigs, opening for the likes of Paolo Nutini, Mika, James Blunt, and college pals Maroon 5.

It was in 2006 when she began writing and recording material for her first major label album, LITTLE VOICE, and in June 2007 when iTunes featured her LOVE SONG as the free single of the week. Barely a month later, LITTLE VOICE became the most downloaded album in the music store. The artist's and the song's quick rise in the pop charts led to live performances in 2008 on THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO and on the TODAY SHOW. Two months hence, LOVE SONG was a certified double platinum hit.

Bareilles confesses that because she's a girl who writes music with her piano, her work is often likened to Norah Jones's and Fiona Apple's; a pretty wide spectrum--Bareilles enjoys the two for the opposite reasons: Jones for her subtlety and Apple for her ferocity. But such is the music of Sara Bareilles--a delightful cocktail of the most sumptuous yet intoxicating influences, diverse as they may seem.  Consider this mix: Elton John, Police, Radiohead, Etta James, Sam Cooke, Bjork, Counting Crows, and Bob Marley, to name a few of her musical idols.

Yet pronounced in this concoction are the stories of Bareilles herself. Her music is laced with honest vignettes that narrate her life, relationships, and as she calls it, her "basket-case-ness."

Figure it out. Here's her most successful song to date, LOVE SONG.